Obama appoints Economic Team to Focus on a Recovery

LANDOVER, Md. — President Obama on Friday completed the midterm makeover of his core economic team as it turned from crisis management to recovery measures, naming Gene B. Sperling as senior economic adviser in the White House.

As director of the Mr. Obama’s National Economic Council, Mr. Sperling returns to the same job he held under President Bill Clinton for four years, succeeding Lawrence H. Summers, who has returned to teach economics at Harvard University.

Mr. Sperling, who has been a counselor to Treasury Secretary Timothy F. Geithner, is the latest Clinton-era veteran to take a prominent place in the West Wing, after Thursday’s announcement that William M. Daley, former commerce secretary under Mr. Clinton, is the new White House chief of staff.

“One of the reasons I’ve selected Gene is he’s done this before,” Mr. Obama said. During the Clinton administration, the president added, “He helped formulate the policies that contributed to turning deficits to surpluses and a time of prosperity and progress for American families.”

Mr. Obama also named several other deputy economic advisers during an appearance at a manufacturing plant in Landover, Md., just east of the capital, at which he also hailed Friday’s government report of continued job growth in December. But with unemployment remaining high, he added, the administration is “not letting up on our efforts” to create jobs.

The White House chose the plant site because the family-owned Thompson Creek Window Manufacturing credits its recent expansion to administration tax incentives for hiring and equipment purchases and to the increased sales of its windows, doors and siding by customers using tax incentives for buying energy-efficient home products.

Mr. Obama also promoted Jason Furman, who will remain as deputy director of the National Economic Council but with higher rank. Mr. Furman also worked under Mr. Sperling in the office during the Clinton administration. Neither Mr. Sperling nor Mr. Furman need Senate confirmation.

The president nominated Katharine G. Abraham as the third member of his Council of Economic Advisers, taking the seat previously held by Austan Goolsbee before Mr. Obama promoted him last year to the council’s chairmanship. And he named Heather Higginbottom, currently a White House domestic policy adviser, to become the deputy to the recently installed director at the Office of Management and Budget, Jacob J. Lew.

With the elevation of Mr. Sperling, Mr. Obama has replaced three of the four principals of his original economic team, who took office with him at the height of a recession and global financial crisis. Then he chose people for their experience in global economics and crisis management, including Mr. Summers and Mr. Geithner, the only one of the original foursome who remains.

In Mr. Sperling and Mr. Lew, who as budget director also returned to the same job he had in the Clinton administration, Mr. Obama has two officials experienced in navigating Washington’s policy-making process through the executive and legislative branches, at a time when he must both put past policy achievements into effect and defend them against Congressional Republicans’ attacks.

Mr. Sperling, as the director of the National Economic Council, is charged with coordinating economic and fiscal policy with the other advisers and Cabinet departments and brokering differences, a job for which he is regarded as better suited than the brilliant but sometimes abrasive Mr. Summers. Mr. Sperling is renowned even among Republicans as a workaholic with a knack for melding policy-making and effective political marketing of those policies, despite a reputation for disorganization.

Both he and Mr. Lew are liberals, but proven pragmatists. And both have records of negotiating bipartisan compromises of the sort Mr. Obama inevitably must seek now that he, like Mr. Clinton before him, confronts a Congress in which Republicans have won greater power.

Mr. Obama credited Mr. Sperling with helping to reach the tax cuts deal sealed with Republicans last month in Congress’s lame-duck session. Mr. Sperling, he said, helped devise a payroll tax cut and other tax incentives for low-wage and moderate-income workers now showing up in their paychecks.


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